"Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
upon them a light has shined."
There is a fascinating thread in the Bible that surrounds this Christmas season. When we think of the characters involved in the Christmas story, we cannot leave out the shepherds. There were only a few people that were given heavenly announcements of the birth of the Messiah. Along with Mary and Joseph the shepherds were visited by the angels to tell them that God Himself had come to earth. God has spoken now to a young handmaiden, a carpenter, and shepherds. Simple people have always been used by God, especially shepherds.
When we survey the landscape of Scripture, there are shepherds at every turn. Abraham tended to flocks. Moses was watching sheep on the backside of the desert when God spoke to him. The prophet Amos had spent plenty of time with sheep. Even the mighty King David was once a young boy that learned his greatest lessons as a shepherd on the hillsides. David recalled these days as he spoke of his God in the familiar passage of Psalm 23. It was there that he rejoiced in the thought that "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me." David understood that every man is a sheep that needs a Shepherd.
Isaiah's prophesy of the coming Messiah played perfectly with these words, because Israel at that time and every man since has walked in the shadow of death. The fear and dread of it looms over our heads, and the penalty of sin is sure. That shadow reminds of what is to come, and it haunts those who recognize its dark and foreboding presence. Then, Jesus comes and shines the light of His love on our lives. In His presence the shadows have to flee; the darkness cannot dwell in the company of His glory! The Shepherd has come to take care of His sheep. He sweetly calls each one of them by name, and they hear His voice.
The shepherds on that Judean hillside may not have understood that they were being called in to the presence of their Shepherd, but God in His love reached out to them and shined in their darkness. For over 2,000 years God has been shepherding the lost and lonely sheep. He has been shining His light into our darkness so that the shadows have no choice but to submit to His glory.
May you hear the voice of the Shepherd today!